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Presidential Power
Doing the Impossible

Jeremi Suri’s The Impossible Presidency grounds contemporary debates about the presidency in a historical understanding of the office—and shows why its recent occupants don’t measure up.

Published on: October 26, 2017
Charles Edel is Senior Fellow & Visiting Scholar at the University of Sydney’s U.S. Studies Centre, and author of a forthcoming USSC report on the American presidency. Previously, he worked on the U.S. Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff from 2015-2017, served as Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy at the U.S. Naval War College, and authored Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic.
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  • Anthony

    Charles Edel’s critique and review outlines Suri’s book (The Impossible Presidency…) but gives only glimpses to Suri’s foundational premise: how much the President matters to the American government, to American society, and to America’s place in the world. At bottom, review leaves open-ended question that book perhaps contends with: Democratic Governance (American Democracy) and its executive configuration. Interesting times we find ourselves in but they did not suddenly materialize despite current focus.

    Briefly, “Kagan asked if democracy could succeed only with energetic and skilled leadership at its helm and if, in its absence, a democracy would face a best case scenario of drift in calm seas, and a more probable outcome of shipwreck in foul weather.” Well, here we are (and though hardly impossible to imagine, once thought improbable perhaps).

  • QET

    Pericles did not govern 350 million free people. 350 million free people will not submit to any one person’s idea of unity or commonality. Hoping that some almost transcendent force will arrive to “unify” (whatever that means) 350 million people is a millennarian daydream that encourages political passive-aggressive behavior and a culture of dependency and resentment. Our political problems today are nothing to do with the formal structure of the federal Executive Branch but the rot and deliberate tearing down of the political and cultural foundations of the polity for which the Executive executes.

  • SeaAyeA

    Lost me at FDR broke the mold. FDR broke the bank. Thank you very much. There have always been crises and social issues. Nothing unique about it. Trump is not an alien. The jury is out, obviously. Pretty low bar to beat the past three or four admins anyway.

    • TNI Censors Comments Now

      Abe Lincoln just shut down critical papers and locked up 3,000 journalists critical of continuing the war. FDR confiscated gold and blew up the size of govt. JFK was a perv and put his brother and friends in the highest places. LBJ maybe killed JFK and he jumped into Vietnam. Nixon was Nixon – not a crook!! Sure. Carter was weak. Ronald was a little loopy toward the end. HW lied. Clinton lied and was a pervert. Bush jr started a war predicated on a lie. Obama continued and expanded the wars and his admin sold Russians a bunch of uranium.

      • Psalms13626

        *looks wildly around* What if I were to tell you that they were ALL a$$holes?
        Seriously, pretty good summary. Reagan won the Cold War, so I’m willing to forget the loopiness

      • AnonymoussSoldier

        Guessing you didn’t mention Truman because he genuinely did inherit the presidency, quite possibly unlike LBJ, and he inherited many FDR terms. And ford. Well he just fell down some stairs eh

  • D4x

    Huh? [because] “Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who reimagined the social contract, transformed the White House into the driver of the legislative agenda,” [too many NewDeal historians, pundits, book writers and reviewers believe] “This was because the Constitution merely sketched the roles and functions of the presidency, leaving open the interpretation of its powers.”

    Article 2 – The Executive Branch of the U.S. Constitution is brilliant in it’s clarity. Recommended reading!
    Tips on steering the ship of state through the turbulence:

    Ezekiel 45: “remove violence and spoil, execute judgment and justice”
    “Fear not each sudden sound and shock, ‘Tis of the wave and not the rock”
    “The Building of the Ship” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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